Am I Ok? How my realisation that mental health recovery resides within us saved my life
Disclaimer: This blog post contains content that may be disturbing, such as suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, and traumatic events. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, tell a trusted adult or contact Lifeline: 13 11 14
Thursday 14th Sep is R U OK? Day—a national suicide prevention charity dedicated to encouraging and empowering everyone to ask ‘are you ok?’ of anyone struggling with life.
Over half of Australia’s young people have needed support for their mental health at some point in their lives.
So, to highlight the importance of R U OK? Day, I want to share my personal journey towards overcoming mental health challenges and improving my health and wellbeing. I aspire to offer fellow teenagers the solace and inspiration they need to embark on their own journey.
At the age of eight, while most children are exploring the depths of their meaning, I was questioning mine. It was then I was diagnosed with anxiety.
At age nine, it was Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, and body dysmorphia at ten. While my friends were out enjoying exploring their youthful brains, I was sitting in the psychiatry office with feelings of wishing to eliminate myself from the earth.
At thirteen, my life changed from horror to hell. Foods that gave my mind pure enjoyment filled me with disgust. I was diagnosed with the mental health condition that has the highest mortality rate—anorexia nervosa. These two words would lead the way to my life’s most traumatic moments.
I also suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The effects of my condition had overruled my brain as my body was dying. My heart was failing, and I experienced extreme weight loss.
After being admitted for treatment four times, the trauma from this experience still resides very much within me. I sat in my hospital room with cardiac leads attached to my chest and a feeding tube shoved down my throat. I was utterly alone, apart from a demon that lived permanently in my brain.
At home, I would sit pondering my experience and existence. It was when my little brother walked in as I was trying to end my life, I realised I was truly broken. Something needed to change, not just for me, but for the people who truly loved me.
My recovery was built around the strength my little, fragile heart and mind provided, and my family’s support. I evolved a concept: survive, flourish, or let ourselves fall into the deep perplexity of the universe.
As I sit here today, I have survived after choosing to flourish.
So, how do we piece ourselves back together when we are so broken and hurt? Here is what worked for me:
My mind, heart, life, and fate relied upon my decision to change. A decision only I could make, no one else. The only person who could help my recovery and pursue my life was me. Some people might motivate you or give you a reason to stay in this ‘twisted’ world, but the only person who can really help you is yourself.
I started to optimise ways to accelerate my life—prioritising myself and not being overwhelmed or influenced by others. You might worry that some may perceive you as ‘selfish’, but there is nothing selfish about making yourself happy.
A concept that enhanced my recovery was exploring and pinpointing what makes my mind and body happy. It doesn’t have to be a large action. It can be something small, e.g. journaling every morning, stretching before bed, or making an effort to hug those around you that bring you comfort.
Many aspects of social media can be toxic. For example, ‘thinspo’ and ‘fitspo’ are breeding grounds for eating disorders. Viewing only these unrealistic and superficial posts creates negative thoughts. Take time away from screens, and allow your mind back into the real world. Social media’s ‘reality’ is much different from the one we live in real life.
Prioritising you is crucial. You are the only constant person in your life. So, making the presence of yourself one that is celebrated rather than despised is an ultimate goal in pursuing recovery. The world will always find a way to kick back at you; having yourself to fall back on is precious.
The mental health organisation ReachOut provides helpful tools to guide you through prioritising YOU!
Standing in front of the mirror, I saw someone who hated her existence. I struggled to accept my condition, believing I wasn’t skinny enough or sick enough to deserve treatment. I was in denial that this was my life. There was no way I had contracted this mental illness; I was not worthy of it in my eyes.
Many people resist the fact they have a mental health condition. Most are in denial or don’t believe the condition is severe enough to warrant treatment. It doesn’t matter if your condition is minor or extremely severe—every single person experiencing physical or mental pain deserves help.
After being pulled from my treatment program, I struggled to know what my body needed to be the best it could be, mentally and physically. Journaling helped my mental and physical understanding; noting your thoughts and feelings can help develop a plan for your body’s needs.
Embracing acceptance helps to better understand your body, and allows access to the benefits your body needs to reduce the severity of your condition, and avoid potential chronic impacts.
Some useful questions to ask each day are:
How does my body feel today? Does it hurt? Where do I feel good?
How does my mind feel today? Am I at peace with myself? What are my energy levels like today?
Smiling Mind is an app for sleep and meditation tracking to better understand what your body needs. Implementing these healthy habits daily or even weekly will foresee enormous benefits.
Acceptance can flip the switch in our brains to heal ourselves. Healing doesn’t just come from external help, such as therapy, but also from the internal help you provide yourself.
The first step is the hardest. But once you have started, eventually, you will look back and smile at how far you have come.
Not just today but every day, remember to ask everyone one simple question: R U OK? Your decision to start a meaningful conversation with someone who might be struggling could be the light they need to start their journey. I hope my lived experience provides you with a glimmer of hope to start your journey to healing, self-acceptance, and happiness.
If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, tell a trusted adult or contact Lifeline: 13 11 14
Glimmer is committed to supporting initiatives like R U Ok? Day, working to help people and our communities thrive.
Join Glimmer, the safe and secure online community, committed to promoting well-being by encouraging each other in a positive and inclusive space.
Looking for more articles on improving your wellbeing? See these Glimmer articles.
Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2022 reveals young people’s biggest concerns. https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/media-centre/media-releases/mission-australia-s-youth-survey-2022-reveals-young-people-s-biggest-concerns#:~:text=Almost%20three%20in%2010%20(28.8,some%20point%20in%20their%20life
Mounting research documents the harmful effects of social media use on mental health, including body image and development of eating disorders. Hemendinger, E. https://theconversation.com/mounting-research-documents-the-harmful-effects-of-social-media-use-on-mental-health-including-body-image-and-development-of-eating-disorders-206170
Reachout Tools and Apps. ReachOut
R U Ok? Day. R U OK? Day
Smiling Mind: Try our free mindfulness app. Smiling Mind
The impact of the media on eating disorders in children and adolescents. Morris, A., Katzman, D. https://academic.oup.com/pch/article/8/5/287/2648445